The leaders of other congregations will often go by the title of: minister, elder, parson, pastor, priest, chaplain, officiate, etc. However, the Catholic and the various Orthodox Christian Churches have traditionally referred to their priest as: “father”.
The title of “father” becomes more evident and understandable when the parish sees itself as a reflection of this world … as well as … the Kingdom of God being established here on earth. This is why; when Jesus was trying to express a way to understand God … He looked at His experience as a human being and chooses the family unit as a model of the heavenly reality. (When you think about it, St. Joseph must have been a singularly amazing man. As the hymn so rightfully testifies: “…and Joseph’s love made father to be … for Christ … God’s Name.”)
What is the quality of “father” which makes a priest tremble as he hears the same title calling him to attention … and to serve?
I remember one of the most difficult religion classes I taught was on the Trinity. A few weeks before this particular class – one of my students was hospitalized because of a beating she received from her drunken father. Since each of us has one (and only one) father … God taught me a lesson on understanding a Good Father … and that of a false representation of a man who fathers a child. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit … a loving God — fell on deafen ears that year.
What are the qualities of a father … beyond the physical aspects? Well, similar to the character Tevye (Fiddler on the Roof): he is the one who, as provider and protector, must take in the specific (detailed) facts as well as be the one who looks from a distant place to look back … and prays. He must take it all in and digest every morsel. And, in the end … as a good and prudent father … must be ALONE and take all the hits, all the blame, all the criticism, all the responsibility when making the final decisions on matters of his family. So, no, I really am not your pastor … we have only one pastor: Bishop Paul Swain – Successor of the Apostle. (He gives me his authority in his parishes). I am Father Kevin Doyle, a priest of God. (You who are good fathers, yourselves, understand my office … my duties.) And, God planned from the beginning of time to have me be your priest to serve these parishes as His representative.
When a decision has to be made, I must take in the specific (detailed) facts as well as be the one who looks from a distance … and prays (all the time). Seeing in the past, present and future … I am the one who takes all the hits, all the blame, all the criticism, all the responsibility when making the final decisions on matters of his family. And, a family can have only one father. At this moment in time, let me be Father Kevin and everyone else be the children of God. (Trust God put me here for a reason.) Have faith as a Catholic … mean what you say when saying: Father Kevin. I will, like St. Joseph, protect His greatest treasure until death do us part … or the Second Coming (or the bishop moves me).